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Dealing With Cuts

Most small cuts aren't a danger to kids. But larger cuts often need immediate medical treatment. Depending on the type of wound and its location, there's a risk of damage to tendons and nerves.

Cuts Instruction Sheet

What to Do:

For Minor Bleeding From a Small Cut or Scrape:

  • Rinse the wound thoroughly with water to clean out dirt and debris.
  • Wash the wound with a mild soap and rinse well. (For minor wounds, you don't need to use an antiseptic solution to prevent infection, and some can cause allergic skin reactions.)
  • Cover the wound with a sterile adhesive bandage or sterile gauze and adhesive tape.
  • If the bandage gets wet, remove it and apply a new one. After the wound forms a scab, a bandage isn't needed.
  • Check the wound daily.
  • Call your doctor if the wound is red, swollen, tender, warm, or draining pus.

For Bleeding From a Large or Deep Cut or Tear:

  • Rinse off the wound with water so you can see it clearly and check its size.
  • Place a piece of sterile gauze or a clean cloth over the entire wound. If available, wear clean latex or rubber gloves.
  • If you can, raise the bleeding body part above the level of the child's heart. Do not apply a tourniquet.
  • Using the palm of your hand on the gauze or cloth, apply steady, direct pressure to the wound for 5 minutes. (During the 5 minutes, do not stop to check the wound or remove blood clots that may form on the gauze.)
  • If blood soaks through the gauze, do not remove it. Apply another gauze pad on top and continue applying pressure.

Call your doctor or get immediate medical care for all large or cuts or tears, or if:

  • you can't stop the bleeding after 5 minutes of pressure, or if the wound begins bleeding again (continue applying pressure until help arrives)
  • you can't clean out dirt and debris thoroughly, or there's something else stuck in the wound
  • the wound is on the child's face or neck
  • the injury was caused by an animal or human bite, a burn, electrical injury, or puncture wound (e.g., a nail)
  • the cut is more than half an inch long or appears to be deep — large or deep wounds can result in nerve or tendon damage

If you have any doubt about whether stitches are needed, call your doctor.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: April 2017

Note: All information on KidsHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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